Over the course of 2014, I became infatuated with two Boston prospects, Manny Margot and Rafael Devers. Margot was in A ball and Devers in Rookie ball at the time, and I wanted to add them to my Ottoneu team. However, I was faced with a dilemma. Was owning Margot or Devers for $1-$2 in 2014 worth the roster spot and cap space I would commit to these players over the next 3-5 seasons? I knew Devers/Margot existed and were talented (probably before my league-mates) but felt the rules were constructed in such a way that it made committing roster spots to Rookie and A ball prospects a poor use of resources. Per Ottoneu rules:
b. Owners shall be permitted to retain any of their players at a salary which is increased based on their previous year salary. Rules for salary increases are as follows:
i. Players who have no major league service time (as defined by being placed on an active MLB roster at some point in the past 2 full seasons) will have their salary increase by $1.
So in the case of owning Devers for $1 in 2014, I would likely be looking at a $4 – $8 player by the time he debuts (depending on arbitration) along with committing a roster spot to him for 3-5 seasons. I personally don’t know if that’s a worthwhile trade off, but It’s these types of observations that led me to adding one of my favorite “unofficial” wrinkles to Ottoneu – the 5MILB system. With the help of Trey Baughn, we developed this system to allow prospects outside the scope of the top 50-100 (or in the low levels of the minors) to be owned off roster – where keeping a player for 3-5 seasons can put a real tax on your team. Here are the rules we came up with:
5-Man Non-Rostered Minor League System
Each of the twelve (12) teams in the league may draft up to the maximum of five (5) minor league players (“5MiLB”) during the MiLB non-roster “snake” draft, scheduled annually between the keeper deadline (1/31) and the league’s scheduled auction draft. Unless they are acquired via trade, 5MiLB players may only be added during the annual non-roster draft. Undrafted (unowned) 5MiLB players cannot be added to the non-roster portion of an owner’s roster at any other time during the year, and may not be added via the standard Ottoneu free-agent or waiver system by starting a player auction.
5MiLB players will be owned outside of the standard Ottoneu 40-man roster system for a salary of $0 each (with ownership and transaction history managed in a spreadsheet in the league Drive folder). 5MiLB players are considered “non-rostered” (not included or part of a team’s salary or roster limits), and are ineligible to receive annual arbitration allocations so long as the player has not been added (“called up”) to any owner’s 40-man Ottoneu roster.
The following players are ineligible for the 5MiLB draft:
- Unsigned (amateur or foreign) players
- Players with MLB experience (1 PA or IP)
- Any player that is currently owned by another team in the league
- Any player with either a salary or cap penalty of ≥ $1 in the current season
- Any player owned on a 40-man roster as of the final day of the prior season
5MiLB transaction rules:
- The annual keeper deadline (1/31) also applies to non-rostered 5MiLB players. Any 5MiLB player kept past the keeper deadline cannot be cut before the 5MiLB draft.
- 5MiLB players may be traded, cut, or “called up” (added) to an owner’s standard 40-man Ottoneu roster at any time during the calendar year. However, in order to be cut a 5MiLB player, that player must first be “called up” to the owner’s 40-man roster at a salary of $1 (cutting a 5MiLB player must incur a $1 cap penalty).
- Owners may draft up to the maximum of five (5) 5MiLB players during the draft. Owners may not participate in the annual 5MiLB draft if they own five or more MiLB non-rostered players following the keeper deadline.
- For example: Team A keeps two (2) 5MiLB players past the January 31st keeper deadline. Team A is may draft up to three (3) 5MiLB players in the 5MiLB draft.
- The maximum number of non-rostered MiLB players a team can draft is five (5); the maximum number of non-rostered MiLB players a team can own at any given time is ten (10), where players 6-10 are acquired via trade only.
- 5MiLB draft picks cannot be traded.
- 5MiLB keepers will be kept in the latest possible round, which means each team that keeps < five 5MiLB players prior to the 5MiLB draft will receive a 1st round pick.
- 5MiLB-only trades (trades that do not include any players currently on 40-man rosters) must be announced via the league message board, are not subject to veto by the league, and may be executed immediately by the commissioner.
- Standard 40-man player trades that also include 5MiLB players must also be announced (by name) via the message board by the receiving owner (to create a permanent league record of the 5MiLB player transaction).
- 5MiLB players will be drafted before the annual 40-man (beginning 2017) auction in the order awarded via the incentive system below (see chart). Each owner will have up to 24 hours during each round to select and post their player to the league message board immediately following the selection of the preceding team. Owners that exceed the 24 hour timeline for their pick will enable the next team(s) in order to select when ready.
- 5MiLB players may be “called up” (added) to an owner’s standard 40-man Ottoneu roster at any time by announcing the transaction to the league via the league message board (not Slack). 5MiLB players must be added to an owner’s standard 40-man Ottoneu roster within 48 hours after the 5MiLB player incurs his first MLB PA (hitters) or IP (pitchers) unless the player receives his first MLB PA or IP in the month of September, at which point the owner may choose to keep the player on their 5MiLB roster until the completion of arbitration (commish will add following arbitration). Upon “call up”, the league commissioner will add the non-rostered MiLB player to the owner’s 40-man roster for a salary of $1 (regardless of how long the owner has actually owned the player), at which point the player will be considered “rostered”, immediately included in the team’s salary ($400) and roster limits (40), and eligible to receive cap penalties and arbitration allocations. Owners cannot “demote” 5MiLB players back to their non-rostered status once they have been called up.
This gives you a pretty deep dive into the structure of this format. Having played under the format for 2 years, I have yet to see any super-prospects like Trout or Harper be owned via 5milb. While that could happen, the rules are set up in such a way to make that extremely unlikely, unless that player were owned via 5MiLB before they reached super-prospect status. If a player ballooned out of nowhere to be one of the best prospects in the minors, or if a player like Bryce Harper were drafted and added to the Ottoneu player pool midseason, they would be added to someone’s 40-man roster via the standard auction rules (since there is sufficient time between the draft and end of season, everyone would have an opportunity to add these players).
Some of the best names I’ve seen added via 5MiLB include Austin Meadows, Rafael Devers, Bradley Zimmer, Alex Reyes, Vince Velasquez, and Trea Turner (from the 2015 draft). Having played in two leagues like this, I would find it very hard to go back. The structure of the format makes it defensible to add any prospect, particularly those in the low minors. My question for you as an Ottoneu player is, have you played with the 5MiLB system in your league? What did you think of it? If you have not experienced it, would you enjoy a 5MiLB system if it was added to your Ottoneu league? If you have played under a 5MiLB system, who is the best player you’ve owned? Let’s discuss in the comments.
Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades